Detail of Jesse Tree icon.
I like Christmas stuff better.
Truth is - we prepare for Christmas within and throughout Advent. So put up Christmas one light at a time and play Motown Christmas music until Christmas Eve or something, if you are worried about what your neighbors will think.
You shouldn't worry though. The liturgy - the prayer of the Church - Holy Mass, the readings and the prayers - this is the real 'stuff' of Advent. If you pray - you know that. If you teach your children how to pray - then pray in union with the Church - everything is focused upon Advent: preparation for Christ to come again - as well as preparation to celebrate his Nativity - which goes on for days and days. Advent is a time of joy - joyful penance, watching, waiting. (Although you can start out by scaring the kids with apocalyptic stories of death and destruction - and people going to hell in droves at the last judgement - but you should try to finish the scary stuff up by the time St. Nicholas arrives with Black Peter.)
Of all the traditions for Advent, the Jesse Tree is perhaps the best - the only one I appreciate that is. Not the ugly felt banner ones - but the ancient and medieval icons and carvings depicting the lineage of Christ.
Give the kids knives and chisels and have them carve their own.
Or you can make clay, or papier-mâché relief figures.
(Did you know you can make dough figures too?)
If you need outward signs to display in your home, carve an altar piece, paint an icon, do a huge Jesse Tree tapestry - but do it artfully and tastefully - always strive for museum perfection. It can be a religious and spiritual exercise as well as a lesson in art history.
Or make an Advent calendar - just don't pretend you aren't getting ready for Christmas, because you are.
What could be more sad and dreary than this?
How many children have lost their faith
because of this stuff?
Song for this post here and here.